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Whitmer calls on state Legislature to distribute COVID funds, GOP wants better oversight

State capitol
Lester Graham
Michigan Radio
The legislature will vote on changes to health care benefits for public employees tomorrow.

Republican leaders in the state Legislature say they want better oversight on federal COVID-19 relief dollars.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer has introduced a plan calling for the allocation of $5.6 billion dollars in federal and state money. She says Michigan is lagging behind in terms of getting the cash to people who need it.

“Other states are deploying these resources to support their children, to support businesses that are struggling, to roll out their vaccine distribution. Michigan is sitting on them, and it's because we're waiting for the Legislature to appropriate these dollars.”GOP leaders have also long been advocating for a return to more in-person learning for schools.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer has said schools should have an option of in-person learning by March 1.

She called on the Legislature to allocate $2 billion in federal and state funds to make it easier for schools to get ready. But those funds are waiting on the Legislature’s approval.

“Withholding dollars that could support our kids as we're trying to resume in person learning could really set back or create scenarios where we're not successful and that is not an option." Whitmer said. "And so I asked the legislature to work with me and let's get these resources that the federal government sent to us deployed.”

Senate Republicans don’t plan to use all of the federal funds – and want to use a piecemeal approach to dole out some of the money slowly over several months. State Republicans continue to blast the governor over what they say is a unilateral approach to fighting the pandemic. But the Legislature controls how state and federal money is allocated.

Whitmer says action is needed now to fight the pandemic and help people who are struggling.

"It means our recovery will take longer, our vaccination rates could decline and that's why we get to have help in partnership from the Legislature because Congress did their part. Now we need our state Legislature to do theirs."

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